MOORESTOWN — The Ocean City High School girls lacrosse team had just one loss this season entering its South Jersey Group III final Friday against Moorestown.
That defeat was against the top-seeded Quakers, 18-3.
In their postseason rematch, Moorestown won 18-3 again, ending the season for the first Red Raiders team to reach the South Jersey title game.
The Red Raiders, who won their second straight Cape-Atlantic League championship this season, finished 17-2. They are ranked fourth in The Press Elite 11.
“A lot of people doubted us this year,” Ocean City coach Alyssa Morrison said. “They never, ever thought we would get to this point. I kind of think that was the fire that was lit in the team. They wanted to prove everyone wrong and get here, and they did.”
Moorestown captured the S.J. Group III crown for the eighth consecutive season. They seek their sixth state title during that span.
The Quakers’ Robin Panzarella scored four first-half goals and had an assist. Colette Smith had a hat trick and added three assists. Logan Lillie made five saves.
Moorestown, No. 1 in the Elite 11, led 13-1 at the half.
“Even since I was in high school, I looked up to Moorestown,” said Morrison, who graduated from Washington Township. “They are such a great team and a wonderful program. Obviously, (they are) unstoppable. So just getting here is one thing, and we will work on getting to their level soon.”
The Quakers led 6-0 when Ocean City senior attacker Shannon O’Reilly scored with 15 minutes, 29 seconds remaining in the first half.
“We knew that they were going to be tough and knew they were would challenge us,” O’Reilly said. “We came in playing our hearts out knowing this could be our last game. We came in just ready to play our own game.”
O’Reilly said her initial thought was that the shot would be saved. She was relieved it went in.
“Honestly, the one kid that would score against Moorestown is somebody like Shannon, who is shifty and kind of scrappy in there,” Morrison said. “That’s exactly what she showed today. She is relentless, and one of those players who never gives up.”
It was O’Reilly’s last goal in a Red Raiders jersey, and her last time on a lacrosse field. The senior will play field hockey at Division I NCAA La Salle University next year.
“It’s awesome to score one last goal before it all ended,” O’Reilly said. “I’m glad to be moving on to play field hockey but also really sad because these coaches and kids are so amazing. They’ll be my friends forever.”
Morrison said she is proud of all her seniors as they left behind a great team for the younger players next season.
Ocean City juniors Emily DiMarino scored twice, while Danielle Donoghue had two assists.
“We definitely learned a lot from them (Moorestown),” DiMarino, 17, said. “They are a strong program. They have really nice shots and transitions. And we can definitely match that (next season).”
DiMarino said Ocean City had a great season.
“Next year will be a lot of fun,” she said. “We have a lot of young talent. I’m really excited to see how everyone steps up and how we’ll play together as a team. Next year will be awesome.”
Donoghue is looking forward to getting back to sectional finals next season.
“(Moorestown) was good competition,” she said. “It’s where we wanted to be this season. We accomplished what we wanted, and that’s all we can ask for.
“We hope to accomplish more next year than what we did this year.”
Ocean City’s Abbey Fenton made 10 saves.
Moorestown beat Absegami 20-2 in the quarterfinals and Mainland Regional 19-0 in the semifinals.
Despite the season-ending loss, Ocean City will use this game as a learning tool as it continues to improve.
“I think every time we get a chance to play Moorestown, the girls just really understand what the difference is in play up here,” Morrison said. “They learn something every time they come here. This is the third time we played them since my time here, so I think each time we get a little better.”